You are on page 1of 34

The Online Library of Liberty

A Project Of Liberty Fund, Inc.

Edmund Burke, A Vindication of Natural Society [1756]

The Online Library Of Liberty

This E-Book (PDF format) is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., a private,
non-profit, educational foundation established in 1960 to encourage study of the ideal
of a society of free and responsible individuals. 2010 is the 50th anniversary year of
the founding of Liberty Fund.

It is part of the Online Library of Liberty web site, which

was established in 2004 in order to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc.
To find out more about the author or title, to use the site's powerful search engine, to
see other titles in other formats (HTML, facsimile PDF), or to make use of the
hundreds of essays, educational aids, and study guides, please visit the OLL web site.
This title is also part of the Portable Library of Liberty DVD which contains over
1,000 books, audio material, and quotes about liberty and power, and is available free
of charge upon request.

The cuneiform inscription that appears in the logo and serves as a design element in
all Liberty Fund books and web sites is the earliest-known written appearance of the
word “freedom” (amagi), or “liberty.” It is taken from a clay document written about
2300 B.C. in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash, in present day Iraq.

To find out more about Liberty Fund, Inc., or the Online Library of Liberty Project,
please contact the Director at


8335 Allison Pointe Trail, Suite 300
Indianapolis, Indiana 46250-1684
Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

Edition Used:
A Vindication of Natural Society: or, a View of the Miseries and Evils arising to
Mankind from every Species of Artifical Society. In a Letter to Lord *** by a Late
Noble Writer,* ed. Frank N. Pagano (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1982).

Author: Edmund Burke

About This Title:

Edmund Burke’s first work, originally issued anonymously in 1756 as a letter
attributed to “a late noble writer.” The Vindication is a political and social satire
ridiculing the popular enlightenment notion of a pre-civil “natural society.”

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 2

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

About Liberty Fund:

Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the
study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.

Copyright Information:
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty
Fund, Inc.

Fair Use Statement:

This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may
be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way
for profit.

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 3

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

Table Of Contents
A Letter to Lord????

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 4

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

[Back to Table of Contents]

Before the Philosophical Works of Lord Bolingbroke had appeared, great Things were
expected from the Leisure of a Man, who from the splendid Scene of Action, in which
his Talents had enabled him to make so conspicuous a Figure, had retired to employ
those Talents in the Investigation of Truth. Philosophy began to congratulate herself
upon such a Proselyte from the World of Business, and hoped to have extended her
Power under the Auspices of such a Leader. In the Midst of these pleasing
Expectations, the Works themselves at last appeared in full Body, and with great
Pomp. Those who searched in them for new Discoveries in the Mysteries of Nature;
those who expected something which might explain or direct the Operations of the
Mind; those who hoped to see Morality illustrated and enforced; those who looked for
new Helps to Society and Government; those who desired to see the Characters and
Passions of Mankind delineated; in short, all who consider such Things as
Philosophy, and require some of them at least, in every philosophical Work, all these
were certainly disappointed; they found the Land-marks of Science precisely in their
former Places: And they thought they received but a poor Recompense for this
Disappointment, in seeing every Mode of Religion attacked in a lively Manner, and
the Foundation of every Virtue, and of all Government, sapped with great Art and
much Ingenuity. What Advantage do we derive from such Writings? What Delight
can a Man find in employing a Capacity which might be usefully exerted for the
noblest Purposes, in a sort of sullen Labour, in which, if the Author could succeed, he
is obliged to own, that nothing could be more fatal to Mankind than his Success?

I cannot conceive how this sort of Writers propose to compass the Designs they
pretend to have in view, by the Instruments which they employ. Do they pretend to
exalt the Mind of Man, by proving him no better than a Beast? Do they think to
enforce the Practice of Virtue, by denying that Vice and Virtue are distinguished by
good or ill Fortune here, or by Happiness or Misery hereafter? Do they imagine they
shall increase our Piety, and our Reliance on God, by exploding his Providence, and
insisting that he is neither just nor good? Such are the Doctrines which, sometimes
concealed, sometimes openly and fully avowed, are found to prevail throughout the
Writings of Lord Bolingbroke; and such are the Reasonings which this noble Writer
and several others have been pleased to dignify with the Name of Philosophy. If these
are delivered in a specious Manner, and in a Stile above the common, they cannot
want a Number of Admirers of as much Docility as can be wished for in Disciples. To
these the Editor of the following little Piece has addressed it: there is no Reason to
conceal the Design of it any longer.

The Design was, to shew that, without the Exertion of any considerable Forces, the
same Engines which were employed for the Destruction of Religion, might be
employed with equal Success for the Subversion of Government; and that specious
Arguments might be used against those Things which they, who doubt of every thing
else, will never permit to be questioned. It is an Observation which I think Isocrates
makes in one of his Orations against the Sophists, That it is far more easy to maintain
a wrong Cause, and to support paradoxical Opinions to the Satisfaction of a common

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 5

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

Auditory, than to establish a doubtful Truth by solid and conclusive Arguments.

When Men find that something can be said in favour of what, on the very Proposal,
they have thought utterly indefensible, they grow doubtful of their own Reason; they
are thrown into a sort of pleasing Surprize; they run along with the Speaker, charmed
and captivated to find such a plentiful Harvest of Reasoning, where all seemed barren
and unpromising. This is a Fairy Land of Philosophy. And it very frequently happens,
that those pleasing Impressions on the Imagination, subsist and produce their Effect,
even after the Understanding has been satisfied of their unsubstantial Nature. There is
a sort of Gloss upon ingenious Falsehoods, that dazzles the Imagination, but which
neither belongs to, nor becomes the sober Aspect of Truth. I have met with a
Quotation in Lord Coke's Reports that pleased me very much, though I do not know
from whence he has taken it: “Interdum fucata falsitas, [says he] in multis est
probabilior, et sæpe rationibus vincit nudam veritatem.” In such Cases, the Writer
has a certain Fire and Alacrity inspired into him by a Consciousness, that let it fare
how it will with the Subject, his Ingenuity will be sure of Applause; and this Alacrity
becomes much greater if he acts upon the offensive, by the Impetuosity that always
accompanies an Attack, and the unfortunate Propensity which Mankind have to the
finding and exaggerating Faults. The Editor is satisfied that a Mind which has no
Restraint from a Sense of its own Weakness, of its subordinate Rank in the Creation,
and of the extreme Danger of letting the Imagination loose upon some Subjects may
very plausibly attack every thing the most excellent and venerable; that it would not
be difficult to criticise the Creation itself; and that if we were to examine the divine
Fabricks by our Ideas of Reason and Fitness, and to use the same Method of Attack
by which some Men have assaulted Revealed Religion, we might with as good
Colour, and with the same Success, make the Wisdom and Power of God in his
Creation appear to many no better than Foolishness. There is an Air of Plausibility
which accompanies vulgar Reasonings and Notions taken from the beaten Circle of
ordinary Experience, that is admirably suited to the narrow Capacities of some, and to
the Laziness of others. But this Advantage is in great measure lost, when a painful,
comprehensive Survey of a very complicated Matter, and which requires a great
Variety of Considerations, is to be made; when we must seek in a profound Subject,
not only for Arguments, but for new Materials of Argument, their Measures and their
Method of Arrangement; when we must go out of the Sphere of our ordinary Ideas,
and when we can never walk sure but by being sensible of our Blindness. And this we
must do, or we do nothing, whenever we examine the Result of a Reason which is not
our own. Even in Matters which are, as it were, just within our Reach, what would
become of the World if the Practice of all moral Duties, and the Foundations of
Society, rested upon having their Reasons made clear and demonstrative to every

The Editor knows that the Subject of this Letter is not so fully handled as obviously it
might; it was not his Design to say all that could possibly be said. It had been
inexcusable to fill a large Volume with the Abuse of Reason; nor would such an
Abuse have been tolerable even for a few Pages, if some Under-plot, of more
Consequence than the apparent Design, had not been carried on.

Some Persons have thought that the Advantages of the State of Nature ought to have
been more fully displayed. This had undoubtedly been a very ample Subject for

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 6

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

Declamation; but they do not consider the Character of the Piece. The Writers against
Religion, whilst they oppose every System, are wisely careful never to set up any of
their own. If some Inaccuracies in Calculation, in Reasoning, or in Method be found,
perhaps these will not be looked upon as Faults by the Admirers of Lord Bolingbroke;
who will, the Editor is afraid, observe much more of his Lordship's Character in such
Particulars of the following Letter, than they are like to find of that rapid Torrent of an
impetuous and overbearing Eloquence, and the Variety of rich Imagery for which that
Writer is justly admired.

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 7

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

[Back to Table of Contents]

A Letter To Lord????
Shall I venture to say, my Lord, that in our late Conversation, you were inclined to the
Party which you adopted rather by the Feelings of your good Nature, than by the
Conviction of your Judgment? We laid open the Foundations of Society; and you
feared, that the Curiosity of this Search might endanger the Ruin of the whole
Fabrick. You would readily have allowed my Principle, but you dreaded the
Consequences; you thought, that having once entered upon these Reasonings, we
might be carried insensibly and irresistably farther than at first we could either have
imagined or wished. But for my part, my Lord, I then thought, and am still of the
same Opinion, that Error, and not Truth of any kind, is dangerous; that ill Conclusions
can only flow from false Propositions; and that, to know whether any Proposition be
true or false, it is a preposterous Method to examineit by its apparent Consequences.

These were the Reasons which induced me to go so far into that Enquiry; and they are
the Reasons which direct me in all my Enquiries. I had indeed often reflected on that
Subject before I could prevail upon myself to communicate my Reflections to any
body. They were generally melancholy enough; as those usually are which carry us
beyond the mere Surface of Things; and which would undoubtedly make the Lives of
all thinking Men extremely miserable, if the same Philosophy which caused the Grief,
did not at the same Time administer the Comfort.

On considering political Societies, their Origin, their Constitution, and their Effects, I
have sometimes been in a good deal more than Doubt, whether the Creator did ever
really intend Man for a State of Happiness. He has mixed in his Cup a Number of
natural Evils, (in spite of the Boasts of Stoicism they are Evils) and every Endeavor
which the Art and Policy of Mankind has used from the Beginning of the World to
this Day, in order to alleviate, or cure them, has only served to introduce new
Mischiefs, or to aggravate and inflame the old. Besides this, the Mind of Man itself is
too active and restless a Principle ever to settle on the true Point of Quiet. It discovers
every Day some craving Want in a Body, which really wants but little. It every Day
invents some new artificial Rule to guide that Nature which if left to itself were the
best and surest Guide. It finds out imaginary Beings prescribing imaginary Laws; and
then, it raises imaginary Terrors to support a Belief in the Beings, and an Obediance
to the Laws. Many Things have been said, and very well undoubtedly, on the
Subjection in which we should preserve our Bodies to the Government of our
Understanding; but enough has not been said upon the Restraint which our bodily
Necessities ought to lay on the extravagant Sublimities, and excentrick Rovings of our
Minds. The Body, or as some love to call it, our inferior Nature, is wiser in its own
plain Way, and attends its own Business more directly than the Mind with all its
boasted Subtilty.

In the State of Nature, without question, Mankind was subjected to many and great
Inconveniencies. Want of Union, Want of mutual Assistance, Want of a common
Arbitrator to resort to in their Differences. These were Evils which they could not but
have felt pretty severely on many Occasions. The original Children of the Earth lived

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 8

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

with their Brethren of the other Kinds in much Equality. Their Diet must have been
confined almost wholly to the vegetable Kind; and the same Tree, which in its
flourishing State produced them Berries, in its Decay gave them an Habitation. The
mutual Desires of the Sexes uniting their Bodies and Affections, and the Children,
which were the Results of these Intercourses, introduced first the Notion of Society,
and taught its Conveniences. This Society, founded in natural Appetites and Instincts,
and not in any positive Institution, I shall call Natural Society. Thus far Nature went,
and succeeded; but Man would go farther. The great Error of our Nature is, not to
know where to stop, not to be satisfied with any reasonable Acquirement; not to
compound with our Condition; but to lose all we have gained by an insatiable Pursuit
after more. Man found a considerable Advantage by this Union of many Persons to
form one Family; he therefore judged that he would find his Account proportionably
in an Union of many Families into one Body politick. And as Nature has formed no
Bond of Union to hold them together, he supplied this Defect by Laws.

This is Political Society. And hence the Sources of what are usually called States,
civil Societies, or Governments; into some Form of which, more extended or
restrained, all Mankind have gradually fallen. And since it has so happened, and that
we owe an implicit Reverence to all the Institutions of our Ancestors, we shall
consider these Institutions with all that Modesty with which we ought to conduct
ourselves in examining a received Opinion; but with all that Freedom and Candour
which we owe to Truth wherever we find it, or however it may contradict our own
Notions, or oppose our own Interests. There is a most absurd and audacious Method
of reasoning avowed by some Bigots and Enthusiasts, and through Fear assented to by
some wiser and better Men; it is this. They argue against a fair Discussion of popular
Prejudices, because, say they, tho’ they would be found without any reasonable
Support, yet the Discovery might be productive of the most dangerous Consequences.
Absurd and blasphemous Notion! As if all happiness was not connected with the
Practice of Virtue, which necessarily depends upon the Knowledge of Truth; that is,
upon the Knowledge of those unalterable Relations which Providence has ordained
that every thing should bear to every other. These Relations, which are Truth itself,
the Foundation of Virtue, and consequently, the only Measures of Happiness, should
be likewise the only Measures by which we should direct our Reasoning. To these we
should conform in good Earnest; and not think to force Nature, and the whole Order
of her System, by a Compliance with our Pride, and Folly, to conform to our artificial
Regulations. It is by a Conformity to this Method we owe the Discovery of the few
Truths we know, and the little Liberty and rational Happiness we enjoy. We have
something fairer Play than a Reasoner could have expected formerly; and we derive
Advantages from it which are very visible.

The Fabrick of Superstition has in this our Age and Nation received much ruder
Shocks than it had ever felt before; and through the Chinks and Breaches of our
Prison, we see such Glimmerings of Light, and feel such refreshing Airs of Liberty, as
daily raise our Ardor for more. The Miseries derived to Mankind from Superstition,
under the Name of Religion, and of ecclesiastical Tyranny under the Name of Church
Government, have been clearly and usefully exposed. We begin to think and to act
from Reason and from Nature alone. This is true of several, but still is by far the
Majority in the same old State of Blindness and Slavery; and much is it to be feared

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 9

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

that we shall perpetually relapse, whilst the real productive Cause of all this
superstitious Folly, enthusiastical Nonsense, and holy Tyranny, holds a reverend
Place in the Estimation even of those who are otherwise enlightened.

Civil Government borrows a Strength from ecclesiastical; and artificial Laws receive
a Sanction from artificial Revelations. The Ideas of Religion and Government are
closely connected; and whilst we receive Government as a thing necessary, or even
useful to our Well-being, we shall in spite of us draw in, as a necessary, tho’
undesirable Consequence, an artificial Religion of some kind or other. To this the
Vulgar will always be voluntary Slaves; and even those of a Rank of Understanding
superior, will now and then involuntarily feel its Influence. It is therefore of the
deepest Concernment to us to be set right in this Point; and to be well satisfied
whether civil Government be such a Protector from natural Evils, and such a Nurse
and Increaser of Blessings, as those of warm Imaginations promise. In such a
Discussion, far am I from proposing in the least to reflect on our most wise Form of
Government; no more than I would in the freer Parts of my philosophical Writings,
mean to object to the Piety, Truth, and Perfection of our most excellent Church. Both
I am sensible have their Foundations on a Rock. No Discovery of Truth can prejudice
them. On the contrary, the more closely the Origin of Religion and Government are
examined, the more clearly their Excellencies must appear. They come purified from
the Fire. My Business is not with them. Having entered a Protest against all
Objections from these Quarters, I may the more freely enquire from History and
Experience, how far Policy has contributed in all Times to alleviate those Evils which
Providence, that perhaps has designed us for a State of Imperfection, has imposed;
how far our physical Skill has cured our constitutional Disorders; and whether, it may
not have introduced new ones, cureable perhaps by no Skill.

In looking over any State to form a Judgment on it; it presents itself in two Lights, the
external and the internal. The first, that Relation which it bears in point of Friendship
or Enmity to other States. The second, that Relation its component Parts, the
Governing, and the Governed, bear to each other. The first Part of the external View
of all States, their Relation as Friends, makes so trifling a Figure in History, that I am
very sorry to say, it affords me but little Matter on which to expatiate. The good
Offices done by one Nation to its Neighbour; [1] the Support given in publick
Distress; the Relief afforded in general Calamity; the Protection granted in emergent
Danger; the mutual Return of Kindness and Civility, would afford a very ample and
very pleasing Subject for History. But, alas! all the History of all Times, concerning
all Nations, does not afford Matter enough to fill ten Pages, though it should be spun
out by the Wire-drawing Amplification of a Guicciardini himself. The glaring Side is
that of Enmity. War is the Matter which fills all History, and consequently the only, or
almost the only View in which we can see the External of political Society, is in a
hostile Shape; and the only Actions, to which we have always seen, and still see all of
them intent, are such, as tend to the Destruction of one another. War, says
Machiavelli, ought to be the only Study of a Prince; and by a Prince, he means every
sort of State however constituted. He ought, says this great political Doctor, to
consider Peace only as a Breathingtime, which gives him Leisure to contrive, and
furnishes Ability to execute military Plans. A Meditation on the Conduct of political
Societies made old Hobbes imagine, that War was the State of Nature; and truly, if a

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 10

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

Man judged of the Individuals of our Race by their Conduct when united and packed
into Nations and Kingdoms, he might imagine that every sort of Virtue was unnatural
and foreign to the Mind of Man.

The first Accounts we have of Mankind are but so many Accounts of their Butcheries.
All Empires have been cemented in Blood; and in those early Periods when the Race
of Mankind began first to form themselves into Parties and Combinations, the first
Effect of the Combination, and indeed the End for which it seems purposely formed,
and best calculated, is their mutual Destruction. All ancient History is dark and
uncertain. One thing however is clear. There were Conquerors, and Conquests, in
those Days; and consequently, all that Devastation, by which they are formed, and all
that Oppression by which they are maintained. We know little of Sesostris, but that he
led out of Egypt an Army of above 700,000 Men; that he over-ran the Mediterranean
Coast as far as Colchis; that in some Places, he met but little Resistance, and of course
shed not a great deal of Blood; but that he found in others, a People who knew the
Value of their Liberties, and sold them dear. Whoever considers the Army this
Conqueror headed, the Space he traversed, and the Opposition he frequently met; with
the natural Accidents of Sickness, and the Dearth and Badness of Provision to which
he must have been subject in the Variety of Climates and Countries his March lay
through, if he knows any thing, he must know, that even the Conqueror's Army must
have suffered greatly; and that, of this immense Number, but a very small Part could
have returned to enjoy the Plunder accumulated by the Loss of so many of their
Companions, and the Devastation of so considerable a Part of the World. Considering,
I say, the vast Army headed by this Conqueror, whose unwieldy Weight was almost
alone sufficient to wear down its Strength, it will be far from Excess to suppose that
one half was lost in the Expedition. If this was the State of the Victorious, and from
the Circumstances, it must have been this at the least, the Vanquished must have had a
much heavier Loss, as the greatest Slaughter is always in the Flight, and great
Carnage did in those Times and Countries ever attend the first Rage of Conquest. It
will therefore be very reasonable to allow on their account as much as, added to the
Losses of the Conqueror, may amount to a Million of Deaths, and then we shall see
this Conqueror, the oldest we have on the Records of History, (though, as we have
observed before, the Chronology of these remote Times is extremely uncertain)
opening the Scene by a Destruction of at least one Million of his Species, unprovoked
but by his Ambition, without any Motives but Pride, Cruelty, and Madness, and
without any Benefit to himself; (for Justin expressly tells us, he did not maintain his
Conquests) but solely to make so many People, in so distant Countries, feel
experimentally, how severe a Scourge Providence intends for the human Race, when
he gives one Man the Power over many, and arms his naturally impotent, and feeble
Rage, with the Hands of Millions, who know no common Principle of Action, but a
blind Obedience to the Passions of their Ruler.

The next Personage who figures in the Tragedies of this ancient Theatre is Semiramis:
For we have no Particulars of Ninus, but that he made immense and rapid Conquests,
which doubtless were not compassed without the usual Carnage. We see an Army of
above three Millions employed by this martial Queen in a War against the Indians.
We see the Indians arming a yet greater; and we behold a War continued with much
Fury, and with various Success. This ends in the Retreat of the Queen, with scarce a

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 11

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

third of the Troops employed in the Expedition; an Expedition, which at this rate must
have cost two Millions of Souls on her part; and it is not unreasonable to judge that
the Country which was the Seat of War, must have been an equal Sufferer. But I am
content to detract from this, and to suppose that the Indians lost only half so much,
and then the Account stands thus: In this War alone, (for Semiramis had other Wars)
in this single Reign, and in this one Spot of the Globe, did three Millions of Souls
expire, with all the horrid and shocking Circumstances which attend all Wars, and in a
Quarrel, in which none of the Sufferers could have the least rational Concern.

The Babylonian, Assyrian, Median, and Persian Monarchies must have poured out
Seas of Blood in their Formation, and in their Destruction. The Armies and Fleets of
Xerxes, their Numbers, the glorious Stand made against them, and the unfortunate
Event of all his mighty Preparations, are known to every body. In this Expedition,
draining half Asia of its Inhabitants, he led an Army of about two Millions to be
slaughtered, and wasted, by a thousand fatal Accidents, in the same Place where his
Predecessors had before by a similar Madness consumed the Flower of so many
Kingdoms, and wasted the Force of so extensive an Empire. It is a cheap Calculation
to say, that the Persian Empire in its Wars, against the Greeks, and Sythians, threw
away at least four Millions of its Subjects, to say nothing of its other Wars, and the
Losses sustained in them. These were their Losses abroad; but the War was brought
home to them, first by Agesilaus, and afterwards, by Alexander. I have not, in this
Retreat, the Books necessary to make very exact Calculations; nor is it necessary to
give more than Hints to one of your Lordship's Erudition. You will recollect his
uninterrupted Series of Success. You will run over his Battles. You will call to mind
the Carnage which was made. You will give a Glance of the Whole, and you will
agree with me; that to form this Hero no less than twelve hundred thousand Lives
must have been sacrificed; but no sooner had he fallen himself a Sacrifice to his
Vices, than a thousand Breaches were made for Ruin to enter, and give the last hand
to this Scene of Misery and Destruction. His Kingdom was rent and divided; which
served to employ the more distinct Parts to tear each other to Pieces, and bury the
whole in Blood and Slaughter. The kings of Syria and of Egypt, the Kings of
Pergamus and Macedon, without Intermission worried each other for above two
hundred Years; until at last a strong Power arising in the West, rushed in upon them
and silenced their Tumults, by involving all the contending Parties in the same
Destruction. It is little to say, that the Contentions between the Successors of
Alexander depopulated that Part of the World of at least two Millions.

The Struggle between the Macedonians and Greeks, and before that, the Disputes of
the Greek Commonwealths among themselves, for an unprofitable Superiority, form
one of the bloodiest Scenes in History. One is astonished how such a small Spot could
furnish Men sufficient to sacrifice to the pitiful Ambition of possessing five or six
thousand more Acres, or two or three more Villages: Yet to see the Acrimony and
Bitterness with which this was disputed between the Athenians and Lacedemonians;
what Armies cut off; what Fleets sunk, and burnt; what a Number of Cities sacked,
and their Inhabitants slaughtered, and captived; one would be induced to believe the
Decision of the Fate of Mankind at least, depended upon it! But these Disputes ended
as all such ever have done, and ever will do; in a real Weakness of all Parties; a

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 12

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

momentary Shadow, and Dream of Power in some one; and the Subjection of all to
the Yoke of a Stranger, who knows how to profit of their Divisions.

This at least was the case of the Greeks; and sure, from the earliest Accounts of them,
to their Absorption into the Roman Empire, we cannot judge that their intestine
Divisions, and their foreign Wars, consumed less than three Millions of their

What an Aceldama, what a Field of Blood Sicily has been in ancient times, whilst the
Mode of its Government was controverted between the republican and tyrannical
Parties, and the Possession struggled for by the Natives, the Greeks, the
Carthaginians, and the Romans, your Lordship will easily recollect. You will
remember the total Destruction of such Bodies as an Army of 300,000 Men. You will
find every Page of its History dyed in Blood, and blotted and confounded by Tumults,
Rebellions, Massacres, Assassinations, Proscriptions, and a Series of Horror beyond
the Histories perhaps of any other Nation in the World; though the Histories of all
Nations are made up of similar Matter. I once more excuse myself in point of
Exactness for want of Books. But I shall estimate the Slaughters in this Island but at
two Millions; which your Lordship will find much short of the Reality.

Let us pass by the Wars, and the Consequences of them, which wasted Grecia-
Magna, before the Roman Power prevailed in that Part of Italy. They are perhaps
exaggerated; therefore I shall only rate them at one Million. Let us hasten to open that
great Scene which establishes the Roman Empire, and forms the grand Catastrophe of
the ancient Drama. This Empire, whilst in its Infancy, began by an Effusion of human
Blood scarcely credible. The neighbouring little States teemed for new Destruction:
The Sabines, the Samnites, the Æqui, the Volsci, the Hetrurians, were broken by a
Series of Slaughters which had no Interruption, for some hundreds of Years;
Slaughters which upon all sides consumed more than two Millions of the wretched
People. The Gauls rushing into Italy about this Time, added the total Destruction of
their own Armies to those of the ancient Inhabitants. In short, it were hardly possible
to conceive a more horrid and bloody Picture, if that which the Punic Wars that
ensued soon after did not present one, that far exceeds it. Here we find that Climax of
Devastation, and Ruin, which seemed to shake the whole Earth. The Extent of this
War which vexed so many Nations, and both Elements, and the Havock of the human
Species caused in both, really astonishes beyond Expression, when it is nakedly
considered, and those Matters which are apt to divert our Attention from it, the
Characters, Actions, and Designs of the Persons concerned, are not taken into the
Account. These Wars, I mean those called the Punic Wars, could not have stood the
human Race in less than three Millions of the Species. And yet this forms but a Part
only, and a very small Part, of the Havock caused by the Roman Ambition. The War
with Mithridates was very little less bloody; that Prince cut off at one Stroke 150,000
Romans by a Massacre. In that War Sylla destroyed 300,000 Men at Cheronea. He
defeated Mithridates’ Army under Dorilaus, and slew 300,000. This great and
unfortunate Prince lost another 300,000 before Cyzicum. In the course of the War he
had innumerable other Losses; and having many Intervals of Success, he revenged
them severely. He was at last totally overthrown; and he crushed to Pieces the King of
Armenia his Ally by the Greatness of his Ruin. All who had Connexions with him

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 13

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

shared the same Fate. The merciless Genius of Sylla had its full Scope; and the Streets
of Athens were not the only ones which ran with Blood. At this Period, the Sword,
glutted with foreign Slaughter, turned its Edge upon the Bowels of the Roman
Republick itself; and presented a Scene of Cruelties and Treasons enough almost to
obliterate the Memory of all the external Devastations. I intended, my Lord, to have
proceeded in a sort of Method in estimating the Numbers of Mankind cut off in these
Wars which we have on Record. But I am obliged to alter my Design. Such a tragical
Uniformity of Havock and Murder would disgust your Lordship as much as it would
me; and I confess I already feel my Eyes ake by keeping them so long intent on so
bloody a Prospect. I shall observe little on the Servile, the Social, the Gallic, and
Spanish Wars; not upon those with Jugurtha, nor Antiochus, nor many others equally
important, and carried on with equal Fury. The Butcheries of Julius Cæsar alone, are
calculated by some body else; the Numbers he has been a means of destroying have
been reckoned at 1,200,000. But to give your Lordship an Idea that may serve as a
Standard, by which to measure, in some degree, the others; you will turn your Eyes on
Judea; a very inconsiderable Spot of the Earth in itself, though ennobled by the
singular Events which had their Rise in that Country.

This Spot happened, it matters not here by what means, to become at several times
extremely populous, and to supply Men for Slaughters scarcely credible, if other well-
known and well-attested ones had not given them a Colour. The first settling of the
Jews here, was attended by an almost entire Extirpation of all the former Inhabitants.
Their own civil Wars, and those with their petty Neighbours, consumed vast
Multitudes almost every Year for several Centuries; and the Irruptions of the Kings of
Babylon and Assyria made immense Ravages. Yet we have their History but partially,
in an indistinct confused manner; so that I shall only throw the strong Point of Light
upon that Part which coincides with Roman History, and of that Part only on the Point
of Time when they received the great and final Stroke which made them no more a
Nation; a Stroke which is allowed to have cutoff little less than two Millions of that
People. I say nothing of the Loppings made from that Stock whilst it stood; nor from
the Suckers that grew out of the old Root ever since. But if in this inconsiderable Part
of the Globe, such a Carnage has been made in two or three short Reigns and that this
Carnage, great as it is, makes but a minute Part of what the Histories of that People
informus they suffered; what shall we judge of Countries more extended, and which
have waged Wars by far more considerable?

Instances of this Sort compose the Uniform of History. But there have been Periods
when no less than universal Destruction to the Race of Mankind seems to have been
threatened. When the Goths, the Vandals, and the Huns poured into Gaul, Italy,
Spain, Greece, and Africa, carrying Destruction before them as they advanced, and
leaving horrid Desarts every where behind them. Vastum ubique silentium, secreti
colles; fumantia procul tecta; nemo exploratoribus obvius, is what Tacitus calls facies
Victoriæ. It is always so; but was here emphatically so. From the North proceeded the
Swarms of Goths, Vandals, Huns, Ostrogoths, who ran towards the South into Africa
itself, which suffered as all to the North had done. About this Time, another Torrent
of Barbarians, animated by the same Fury, and encouraged by the same Success,
poured out of the South, and ravaged all to the North-east and West, to the remotest
Parts of Persia on one hand, and to the Banks of the Loire or further on the other;

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 14

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

destroying all the proud and curious Monuments of human Art, that not even the
Memory might seem to survive of the former Inhabitants. What has been done since,
and what will continue to be done whilst the same Inducements to War continue, I
shall not dwell upon. I shall only in one Word mention the horrid Effects of Bigotry
and Avarice, in the Conquest of Spanish America; a Conquest on a low Estimation
effected by the Murder of ten Millions of the Species. I shall draw to a Conclusion of
this Part, by making a general Calculation of the Whole. I think I have actually
mentioned above thirty-six Millions. I have not particularized any more. I don’t
pretend to Exactness; therefore for the sake of a general View, I shall lay together all
those actually slain in Battles, or who have perished in a no less miserable manner by
the other destructive Consequences of War from the Beginning of the World to this
Day, in the four Parts of it, at a thousand times as much; no exaggerated Calculation,
allowing for Time and Extent. We have not perhaps spoke of the five-hundredth Part;
I am sure I have not of what is actually ascertained in History; but how much of these
Butcheries are only expressed in Generals, what Part of Time History has never
reached, and what vast Spaces of the habitable Globe it has not embraced, I need not
mention to your Lordship. I need not enlarge on these Torrents of silent and
inglorious Blood which have glutted the thirsty Sands of Africa, or discoloured the
polar Snow, or fed the savage Forests of America for so many Ages of continual War;
shall I, to justify my Calculations from the Charge of Extravagance, add to the
Account those Skirmishes which happen in all Wars, without being singly of
sufficient Dignity in Mischief, to merit a Place in History, but which by their
Frequency compensate for this comparative Innocence; shall I inflame the Account by
those general Massacres which have devoured whole Cities and Nations; those
wasting Pestilences, those consuming Famines, and all those Furies that follow in the
Train of War? I have no need to exaggerate; and I have purposely avoided a Parade of
Eloquence on this Occasion. I should despise it upon any Occasion; else in
mentioning these Slaughters, it is obvious how much the whole might be heightened,
by an affecting Description of the Horrors that attend the wasting of Kingdoms, and
sacking of Cities. But I do not write to the Vulgar, nor to that which only governs the
Vulgar, their Passions. I go upon a naked and moderate Calculation, just enough,
without a pedantical Exactness, to give your Lordship some Feeling of the Effects of
political Society. I charge the whole of these Effects on political Society. I avow the
Charge, and I shall presently make it good to your Lordship's Satisfaction. The
Numbers I particularized are about thirty-six Millions. Besides those killed in Battles
I have something, not half what the Matter would have justified, but something I have
said, concerning the Consequences of War even more dreadful than that monstrous
Carnage itself which shocks our Humanity, and almost staggers our Belief. So that
allowing me in my Exuberance one way, for my Deficiencies in the other, you will
find me not unreasonable. I think the Numbers of Men now upon Earth are computed
at 500 Millions at the most. Here the Slaughter of Mankind, on what you will call a
small Calculation, amounts to upwards of seventy times the Number of Souls this Day
on the Globe. A Point which may furnish matter of Reflection to one less inclined to
draw Consequences than your Lordship.

I now come to shew, that Political Society is justly chargeable with much the greatest
Part of this Destruction of the Species. To give the fairest Play to every side of the
Question, I will own that there is a Haughtiness, and Fierceness in human Nature,

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 15

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

which will cause innumerable Broils, place Men in what Situation you please; but
owning this, I still insist in charging it to political Regulations, that these Broils are so
frequent, so cruel, and attended with Consequences so deplorable. In a State of
Nature, it had been impossible to find a Number of Men, sufficient for such
Slaughters, agreed in the same bloody Purpose; or allowing that they might have
come to such an Agreement, (an impossible Supposition) yet the Means that simple
Nature has supplied them with, are by no means adequate to such an End; many
Scratches, many Bruises undoubtedly would be received upon all hands; but only a
few, a very few Deaths. Society, and Politicks, which have given us these destructive
Views, have given us also the Means of satisfying them. From the earliest Dawnings
of Policy to this Day, the Invention of Men has been sharpening and improving the
Mystery of Murder, from the first rude Essays of Clubs and Stones, to the present
Perfection of Gunnery, Cannoneering, Bombarding, Mining, and all these Species of
artificial, learned, and refined Cruelty, in which we are now so expert, and which
make a principal Part of what Politicians have taught us to believe is our principal

How far mere Nature would have carried us, we may judge by the Examples of those
Animals, who still follow her Laws, and even of those to whom she has given
Dispositions more fierce, and Arms more terrible than ever she intended we should
use. It is an incontestable Truth, that there is more Havock made in one Year by Men,
of Men, than has been made by all the Lions, Tygers, Panthers, Ounces, Leopards,
Hyenas, Rhinoceroses, Elephants, Bears, and Wolves, upon their several Species,
since the Beginning of the World; though these agree ill enough with each other, and
have a much greater Proportion of Rage and Fury in their Composition than we have.
But with respect to you, ye Legislators, ye Civilizers of Mankind! ye Orpheuses,
Moseses, Minoses, Solons, Theseuses, Lycurguses, Numas! with Respect to you be it
spoken, your Regulations have done more Mischief in cold Blood, than all the Rage
of the fiercest Animals in their greatest Terrors, or Furies, have ever done, or ever
could do!

These Evils are not accidental. Whoever will take the pains to consider the Nature of
Society, will find they result directly from its Constitution. For as Subordination, or in
other Words, the Reciprocation of Tyranny, and Slavery, is requisite to support these
Societies, the Interest, the Ambition, the Malice, or the Revenge, nay even the Whim
and Caprice of one ruling Man among them, is enough to arm all the rest, without any
private Views of their own, to the worst and blackest Purposes;and what is at once
lamentable and ridiculous, these Wretches engage under those Banners with a Fury
greater than if they were animated by Revenge for their own proper Wrongs.

It is no less worth observing, that this artificial Division of Mankind, into separate
Societies, is a perpetual Source in itself of Hatred and Dissention among them. The
Names which distinguish them are enough to blow up Hatred, and Rage. Examine
History; consult present Experience; and you will find, that far the greater Part of the
Quarrels between several Nations, had scarce any other Occasion, than that these
Nations were different Combinations of People, and called by different Names;–to an
Englishman, the Name of a Frenchman, a Spaniard, an Italian, much more a Turk, or
a Tartar, raise of course Ideas of Hatred, and Contempt. If you would inspire this

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 16

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

Compatriot of ours with Pity or Regard, for one of these; would you not hide that
Distinction? You would not pray him to compassionate the poor Frenchman, or the
unhappy German. Far from it; you wouldspeak of him as a Foreigner, an Accident to
which all are liable. You would represent him as a Man: one partaking with us of the
same common Nature, and subject to the same Law. There is something so averse
from our Nature in these artificial political Distinctions, that we need no other
Trumpet to kindle us to War, and Destruction. But there is something so benign and
healing in the general Voice of Humanity, that maugre all our Regulations to prevent
it, the simple Name of Man applied properly, never fails to work a salutary Effect.

This natural unpremediated Effect of Policy on the unpossessed Passions of Mankind,

appears on other Occasions. The very Name of a Politician, a Statesman, is sure to
cause Terror and Hatred; it has always connected with it the Ideas of Treachery,
Cruelty, Fraud and Tyranny; and those Writers who have faithfully unveiled the
Mysteries of State-freemasonry, have ever been held in general Detestation, for even
knowing so perfectly a Theory so detestable. The Case of Machiavelli seems at first
sight something hard in that Respect. He is obliged to bear the Iniquities of those
whose Maxims and Rules of Government he published. His Speculation is more
abhorred than their Practice.

But if there were no other Arguments against artificial Society than this I am going to
mention, methinks it ought to fall by this one only. All Writers on the Science of
Policy are agreed, and they agree with Experience, that all Governments must
frequently infringe the Rules of Justice to support themselves; that Truth must give
way to Dissimulation; Honesty to Convenience;and Humanity itself to the reigning
Interest. The Whole of this Mystery of Iniquity is called the Reason of State. It is a
Reason, which I own I cannot penetrate. What Sort of a Protection is this of the
general Right, that is maintained by infringing the Rights of Particulars? What sort of
Justice is this, which is inforced by Breaches of its own Laws? These Paradoxes I
leave to be solved by the able heads of Legislators and Politicians. For my part, I say
what a plain Man would say on such an Occasion. I can never believe, that any
Institution agreeable to Nature, and proper for Mankind, could find it necessary, or
even expedient in any Case whatsoever to do, what the best and worthiest Instincts of
Mankind warn us to avoid. But no wonder, that what is set up in Opposition to the
State of Nature, should preserve itself by trampling upon the Law of Nature.

To prove, that these Sort of policed Societies are a Violation offered to Nature, and a
Constraint upon the human Mind, it needs only to look upon the sanguinary
Measures, and Instruments of Violence which are every where used to support them.
Let us take a Review of the Dungeons, Whips, Chains, Racks, Gibbets, with which
every Society is abundantly stored, by which hundreds of Victims are annually
offered up to support a dozen or two in Pride and Madness, and Millions in an abject
Servitude, and Dependence. There was a Time, when I looked with a reverential Awe
on these Mysteries of Policy; but Age, Experience, and Philosophy have rent the Veil;
and I view this Sanctum Sanctorum, at least, without any enthusiastick Admiration. I
acknowledge indeed, the Necessity of such a Proceeding in such Institutions; but I
must have a very mean Opinion of Institutions where such Proceedings are necessary.

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 17

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

It is a Misfortune, that in no Part of the Globe natural Liberty and natural Religion are
to be found pure, and free from the Mixture of political Adulterations. Yet we have
implanted in us by Providence Ideas, Axioms, Rules, of what is pious, just, fair,
honest, which no political Craft, nor learned Sophistry, can entirely expel from our
Breasts. By these we judge, and we cannot otherwise judge of the several artificial
Modes of Religion and Society, and determine of them as they approach to, or recede
from this Standard.

The simplest form of Government is Despotism, where all the inferior Orbs of Power
are moved merely by the Will of the Supreme, and all that are subjected to them,
directed in the same Manner, merely by the occasional Will of the Magistrate. This
Form, as it is the most simple, so it is infinitely the most general. Scarce any Part of
the World is exempted from its Power. And in those few Places where Men enjoy
what they call Liberty, it is continually in a tottering Situation, and makes greater and
greater Strides to that Gulph of Despotism which at last swallows up every Species of
Government. This Manner of ruling being directed merely by the Will of the weakest,
and generally the worst Man in the Society, becomes the most foolish and capricious
Thing, at the same time that it is the most terrible and destructive that well can be
conceived. In a Despotism the principal Person finds, that let the Want, Misery, and
Indigence of his Subjects, be what they will, he can yet possess abundantly of every
thing to gratify his most insatiable Wishes. He does more. He finds that these
Gratifications increase in proportion to the Wretchedness and Slavery of his Subjects.
Thus encouraged both by Passion and Interest to trample on the publick Welfare, and
by his Station placed above both Shame and Fear, he proceeds to the most horrid and
shocking Outrages upon Mankind. Their Persons become Victims of his Suspicions.
The slightest Displeasure is Death; and a disagreeable Aspect is often as greata Crime
as High-treason. In the court of Nero a Person of Learning, of unquestioned Merit,
and of unsuspected Loyalty, was put to Death for no other Reason than that he had a
pedantick Countenance which displeased the Emperor. This very Monster of Mankind
appeared in the Beginning of his Reign to be a Person of Virtue. Many of the greatest
Tyrants on the Records of History have begun their Reigns in the fairest Manner. But
the Truth is, this unnatural Power corrupts both the Heart, and the Understanding.
And to prevent the least Hope of Amendment, a King is ever surrounded by a Crowd
of infamous Flatterers, who find their Account in keeping him from the least Light of
Reason, till all Ideas of Rectitude and Justice are utterly erased from his Mind. When
Alexander had in his Fury inhumanly butchered one of his best Friends, and bravest
Captains;on the Return of Reason he began to conceive an Horror suitable to the Guilt
of such a Murder. In this Juncture, his Council came to his Assistance. But what did
his Council? They found him out a Philosopher who gave him Comfort. And in what
Manner did this Philosopher comfort him for the Loss of such a Man, and heal his
Conscience, flagrant with the Smart of such a Crime? You have the Matter at Length
in Plutarch. He told him; “that let a Sovereign do what he will, all his actions are just
and lawful, because they are his.” The Palaces of all Princes abound with such
courtly Philosophers. The Consequence was such as might be expected. He grew
every Day a Monster more abandoned to unnatural Lust, to Debauchery, to
Drunkenness, and to Murder. And yet this was originally a great Man, of uncommon
Capacity, and a strong Propensity to Virtue. But unbounded Power proceeds Step by
Step, until it has eradicated every laudable Principle. It has been remarked, that there

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 18

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

is no Prince so bad, whose Favourites and Ministers are not worse. There is hardly
any Prince without a Favourite, by whom he is governed in as arbitrary a Manner as
he governs the Wretches subjected to him. Here the Tyranny is doubled. There are
two Courts, and two Interests;both very different from the Interests of the People. The
Favourite knows that the Regard of a Tyrant is as unconstant and capricious as that of
a Woman; and concluding his Time to be short, he makes haste to fill up the Measure
of his Iniquity, in Rapine, in Luxury, and in Revenge. Every Avenue to the Throne is
shut up. He oppresses, and ruins the People, whilst he persuades the Prince, that those
Murmurs raised by his own Oppression are the Effects of Disaffection to the Prince's
Government. Then is the natural Violence of Despotism inflamed, and aggravated by
Hatred and Revenge. To deserve well of the State is a Crime against the Prince. To be
popular, and to be a Traitor, are considered as synonimous Terms. Even Virtue is
dangerous, as an aspiring Quality, that claims an Esteem by itself, and independent of
the Countenance of the Court. What has been said of the chief, is true of the inferior
Officers of this Species of Government; each in his Province exercising the same
Tyranny, and grinding the People by an Oppression, the more severely felt, as it is
near them, and exercised by base and subordinate Persons. For the Gross of the
People; they are considered as a mere Herd of Cattle; and really in a little Time
become no better; all Principle of honest Pride, all Sense of the Dignity of their
Nature, is lost in their Slavery. The Day, says Homer, which makes a Man a Slave,
takes away half his Worth; and in fact, he loses every Impulse to Action, but that low
and base one of Fear. In this kind of Government human Nature is not only abused
and insulted, but it is actually degraded and sunk into a Species of Brutality. The
Consideration of this made Mr. Locke say, with great Justice, that a Government of
this kind was worse than Anarchy; indeed it is so abhorred, and detested by all who
live under Forms that have a milder Appearance, that there is scarce a rational Man in
Europe, that would not prefer Death to Asiatick Despotism. Here then we have the
Acknowledgement of a great Philosopher, that an irregular State of Nature is
preferable to such a Government; we have the Consent of all sensible and generous
Men, who carry it yet further, and avow that Death itself is preferable; and yet this
Species of Government, so justly condemned, and so generally detested, is what
infinitely the greater Part of Mankind groan under, and have groaned under from the
Beginning. So that by sure and uncontested Principles, the greatest Part of the
Governments on Earth must be concluded Tyrannies, Impostures, Violations of the
Natural Rights of Mankind, and worse than the most disorderly Anarchies. How much
other Forms exceed this, we shall consider immediately.

In all Parts of the World, Mankind, however debased, retains still the Sense of
Feeling; the Weight of Tyranny, at last, becomes insupportable; but the Remedy is not
so easy; in general, the only Remedy by which they attempt to cure the Tyranny, is to
change the Tyrant. This is, and always was the Case for the greater Part. In some
Countries however, were found Men of more Penetration; who discovered, “that to
live by one Man's Will, was the Cause of all Men's Misery.” They therefore changed
their former Method, and assembling the Men in their several Societies, the most
respectable for their Understanding and Fortunes, they confided to them the Charge of
the publick Welfare. This originally formed what is called an Aristocracy. They
hoped, it would be impossible that such a Number could ever join in any Design
against the general Good; and they promised themselves a great deal of Security and

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 19

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

Happiness, from the united Counsels of so many able and experienced Persons. But it
is now found by abundant Experience, that an Aristocracy, and a Despotism, differ but
in Name; and that a People, who are in general excluded from any Share of the
Legislative, are to all Intents and Purposes, as much Slaves, when twenty,
independent of them, govern, as when but one domineers. The Tyranny is even more
felt, as every Individual of the Nobles has the Haughtiness of a Sultan; the People are
more miserable, as they seem on the Verge of Liberty, from which they are for ever
debarred, this fallacious Idea of Liberty, whilst it presents a vain Shadow of
Happiness to the Subject, binds faster the Chains of his Subjection. What is left
undone, by the natural Avarice and Pride of those who are raised above the others, is
compleated by their Suspicions, and their Dread of losing an Authority, which has no
Support in the common Utility of the Nation. A Genoese, or a Venetian Republick, is
a concealed Despotism; where you find the same Pride of the Rulers, the same base
Subjection of the People, the same bloody Maxims of a suspicious Policy. In one
respect the Aristocracy is worse than the Despotism. A Body Politick, whilst it retains
its Authority, never changes its Maxims; a Despotism, which is this Day horrible to a
Supreme Degree, by the Caprice natural to the Heart of Man, may, by the same
Caprice otherwise exerted, be as lovely the next; in a Succession, it is possible to meet
with some good Princes. If there have been Tiberiuses, Caligulas, Neros, there have
been likewise the serener Days of Vespasians, Tituses, Trajans, and Antonines; but a
Body Politick is not influenced by Caprice or Whim; it proceeds in a regular Manner;
its Succession is insensible; and every Man as he enters it, either has, or soon attains
the Spirit of the whole Body. Never was it known, that an Aristocracy, which was
haughty and tyrannical in one Century, became easy and mild in the next. In effect,
the Yoke of this Species of Government is so galling, that whenever the People have
got the least Power, they have shaken it off with the utmost Indignation, and
established a popular Form. And when they have not had Strength enough to support
themselves, they have thrown themselves into the Arms of Despotism, as the more
eligible of the two Evils. This latter was the Case of Denmark, whosought a Refuge
from the Oppression of its Nobility, in the strong Hold of arbitrary Power. Poland has
at present the Name of Republick, and it is one of the Aristocratick Form; but it is
well known, that the little Finger of this Government, is heavier than the Loins of
arbitrary Power in most Nations. The People are not only politically, but personally
Slaves, and treated with the utmost Indignity. The Republick of Venice is somewhat
more moderate; yet even here, so heavy is the Aristocratick Yoke, that the Nobles
have been obliged to enervate the Spirit of their Subjects by every Sort of
Debauchery; they have denied them the Liberty of Reason, and they have made them
amends, by what a base Soul will think a more valuable Liberty, by not only allowing,
but encouraging them to corrupt themselves in the most scandalous Manner. They
consider their Subjects, as the Farmer does the

Hog he keeps to feast upon. He holds him fast in his Stye, but allows him to wallow
as much as he pleases in his beloved Filth and Gluttony. So scandalously debauched a
People as that of Venice, is to be met with no where else. High, Low, Men, Women,
Clergy, and Laity, are all alike. The ruling Nobility are no less afraid of one another,
than they are of the People; and for that Reason, politically enervate their own Body
by the same effeminate Luxury, by which they corrupt their Subjects. They are
impoverished by every Means which can be invented; and they are kept in a perpetual

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 20

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

Terror by the Horrors of a State-inquisition; here you see a People deprived of all
rational Freedom, and tyrannized over by about two thousand Men; and yet this Body
of two thousand, are so far from enjoying any Liberty by the Subjection of the rest,
that they are in an infinitely severer State of Slavery; they make themselves the most
degenerate, and unhappy of Mankind, for no other Purpose than that they may the
more effectually contribute to the Misery of an whole Nation. In short, the regular and
methodical Proceedings of an Aristocracy, are more intolerable than the very
Excesses of a Despotism, and in general, much further from any Remedy.

Thus, my Lord, we have pursued Aristocracy through its whole Progress;we have
seen the Seeds, the Growth, and the Fruit. It could boast none of the Advantages of a
Despotism, miserable as those Advantages were, and it was overloaded with an
Exuberance of Mischiefs, unknown even to Despotism itself. In effect, it is no more
than a disorderly Tyranny. This Form therefore could be little approved even in
Speculation, by those who were capable of thinking, and could be less borne in
Practice by any who were capable of feeling. However, the fruitful Policy of Man was
not yet exhausted. He had yet another Farthing-candle to supply the Deficiencies of
the Sun. This was the third Form, known by political Writers under the Name of
Democracy. Here the People transacted all publick Business, or the greater Part of it,
in their own Persons: their Laws were made by themselves, and upon any Failure of
Duty, their Officers were accountable to themselves, and to them only. In all
appearance, they had secured by this Method the Advantages of Order and good
Government, without paying their Liberty for the Purchace. Now, my Lord, we are
come to the Master-piece of Grecian Refinement, and Roman Solidity, a popular
Government. The earliest and most celebrated Republic of this Model, was that of
Athens. It was constructed by no lessan Artist, than the celebrated Poet and
Philosopher, Solon. But no sooner was this political Vessel launched from the Stocks,
than it overset, even in the Lifetime of the Builder. A Tyranny immediately
supervened; not by a foreign Conquest, not by Accident, but by the very Nature and
Constitution of a Democracy. An artful Man became popular, the People had Power
in their Hands, and they devolved a considerable Share of their Power upon their
Favourite; and the only Use he made of this Power, was to plunge those who gave it
into Slavery. Accident restored their Liberty, and the same good Fortune produced
Men of uncommon Abilities and uncommon Virtues amongst them. But these
Abilities were suffered to be of little Service either to their Possessors or to the State.
Some of these Men, for whose Sakes alone we read their History, they banished;
others they imprisoned; and all they treated with various Circumstances of the most
shameful Ingratitude. Republicks have many Things in the Spirit of absolute
Monarchy, but none more than this; a shining Merit is ever hated or suspected in a
popular Assembly, as well as in a Court; and all Services done the State, are looked
upon as dangerous to the Rulers, whether Sultans or Senators. The Ostracism at
Athens wasbuilt upon this Principle. The giddy People, whom we have now under
consideration, being elated with some Flashes of Success, which they owed to nothing
less than any Merit of their own, began to tyrannize over their Equals, who had
associated with them for their common Defence. With their Prudence they renounced
all Appearance of Justice. They entered into Wars rashly and wantonly. If they were
unsuccessful, instead of growing wiser by their Misfortune, they threw the whole
Blame of their own Misconduct on the Ministers who had advised, and the Generals

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 21

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

who had conducted those Wars; until by degrees they had cut off all who could serve
them in their Councils or their Battles. If at any time these Wars had an happier Issue,
it was no less difficult to deal with them on account of their Pride and Insolence.
Furious in their Adversity, tyrannical in their Successes, a Commander had more
Trouble to concert his Defence before the People, than to plan the Operations of the
Campaign. It was not uncommon for a General, under the horrid Despotism of the
Roman Emperors, to be ill received in proportion to the Greatness of his Services.
Agricola is a strong Instance of this. No Man had done greater Things, nor with more
honest Ambition. Yet on his Return to Court, he was obliged to enter Rome with all
the Secrecy of a Criminal. He went to the Palace, not like a victorious Commander
who had merited and might demand the greatest Rewards, but like an Offender who
had come to supplicate a Pardon for his Crimes. His Reception was answerable:
“Brevi osculo, & nullo sermone exceptus, turbæ servientium immistus est.” Yetin that
worse Season of this worst of monarchical [2] Tyrannies, Modesty, Discretion, and a
Coolness of Temper, formed some kind of Security even for the highest Merit. But at
Athens, the nicest and best studied Behaviour was not a sufficient Guard for a Man of
great Capacity. Some of their bravest Commanders were obliged to fly their Country,
some to enter into the Service of its Enemies, rather than abide a popular
Determination of their Conduct, lest, as one of them said, their Giddiness might make
the People condemn where they meant to acquit; to throw in a black Bean, even when
they intended a white one.

The Athenians made a very rapid Progress to the most enormous Excesses. The
People under no Restraint soon grew dissolute, luxurious, and idle. They renounced
all Labour, and began to subsist themselves from the publick Revenues. They lost all
Concern for their common Honour or Safety, and could bear no Advice that tended to
reform them. At this time Truth became offensive to those Lords the People, and most
highly dangerous to the Speaker. The Orators no longer ascended the Rostrum, but to
corrupt them further with the most fulsome Adulation. These Orators were all bribed
by foreign Princes on the one Side or the other. And besides its own Parties, in this
City there were Parties, and avowed ones too, for the Persians, Spartans, and
Macedonians, supported eachof them by one or more Demagogues pensioned and
bribed to this iniquitous Service. The People, forgetful of all Virtue and publick Spirit,
and intoxicated with the Flatteries of their Orators (these Courtiers of Republicks, and
endowed with the distinguishing Characteristicks of all other Courtiers) this People, I
say, at last arrived at that Pitch of Madness, that they coolly and deliberately, by an
express Law, made it capital for any Man to propose an Application of the immense
Sums squandered in publick Shows, even to the most necessary Purposes of the State.
When you see the People of this Republick banishing or murdering their best and
ablest Citizens, dissipating the publick Treasure with the most senseless
Extravagance, and spending their whole Time, as Spectators or Actors, in playing,
fiddling, dancing, and singing, does it not, my Lord, strike your Imagination with the
Image of a sort of a complex Nero? And does it notstrike you with the greater Horror,
when you observe, not one Man only, but a whole City, grown drunk with Pride and
Power, running with a Rage of Folly into the same mean and senseless Debauchery
and Extravagance? But if this People resembled Nero intheir Extravagance, much
more did they resemble and even exceed him in Cruelty and Injustice. In the Time of
Pericles, oneof the most celebrated Times in the History of that Commonwealth, a

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 22

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

King of Egypt sentthem a Donation of Corn. This they were mean enough to accept.
And had the Egyptian Princeintended the Ruin of this City of wicked Bedlamites,
hecould not have taken a more effectual Method to do it, than by such an ensnaring
Largess. The Distribution of this Bounty caused a Quarrel; the Majority set on foot an
Enquiry into the Title of the Citizens; and upon a vain Pretence of Illegitimacy, newly
and occasionally set up, they deprived of their Share of the royal Donation no less
than five thousand of their own Body. They went further; they disfranchised them;
and having once begun with an Act of Injustice, they could set no Bounds to it. Not
content with cutting them off from the Rights of Citizens, they plundered these
unfortunate Wretches of all their Substance; and to crown this Masterpiece of
Violence and Tyranny, they actually sold every Man of the five thousand as Slaves in
the publick Market. Observe, my Lord, that the five thousand we here speak of, were
cut off from a Body of no more than nineteen thousand; for the entire Number of
Citizens was no greater at that Time. Could the Tyrant who wished the Roman People
but one Neck; could the Tyrant Caligula himself havedone, nay, he could scarcely
wish for a greater Mischief, than to have cut off, at one Stroke, a fourth of his People?
Or has the Cruelty of that Series of sanguine Tyrants, the Caesars, ever presented
such a Piece of flagrant and extensive Wickedness?The whole History of this
celebrated Republick is but one Tissue of Rashness, Folly, Ingratitude, Injustice,
Tumult, Violence, and Tyranny, and indeed of every Species of Wickedness that can
well be imagined. This was a City of Wisemen, in which a Minister could not exercise
his Functions; a warlike People amongst whom a General did not dare either to gain
or lose a Battle; a learned Nation, in which a Philosopher could not venture on a free
Enquiry. This was the City which banished Themistocles, starved Aristides, forced
into Exile Miltiades, droveout Anaxagoras, and poisoned Socrates. Thiswas a City
which changed the Form of its Government with the Moon; eternal Conspiracies,
Revolutions daily, nothing fixed and established. A Republick, as an ancient
Philosopher has observed, is no one Species of Government, but a Magazine of every
Species; hereyou find every Sort of it, and that in the worst Form. As there is a
perpetual Change, one rising and the other falling, you have all the Violence and
wicked Policy, by which a beginning Power must always acquire its Strength, and
allthe Weakness by which falling States are brought to a complete Destruction.

Rome has a more venerable Aspect than Athens; and she conductedher Affairs, so far
as related to the Ruin and Oppression of the greatest Part of the World, with greater
Wisdom and more Uniformity. But the domestic Oeconomy of these two States was
nearly or altogether the same. An internal Dissention constantly tore to Pieces the
Bowels of the Roman Commonwealth. Youfind the same Confusion, the same
Factions which subsisted at Athens, thesame Tumults, the same Revolutions, and in
fine, the same Slavery. If perhaps their former Condition did not deserve that Name
altogether as well. All other Republicks were of the same Character. Florence was a
Transcript of Athens. Andthe modern Republicks, as they approach more or less to the
Democratick Form, partake more or less of the Nature of those which I have

We are now at the Close of our Review of the three simple Forms of artificial Society,
and we have shewn them, however they may differ in Name, or in someslight
Circumstances, to be all alike in effect; in effect, to be all Tyrannies. But suppose we

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 23

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

were inclined to make the most ample Concessions; let us concede Athens, Rome,
Carthage, andtwo or three more of the ancient, and as many of the modern
Commonwealths, to have been, or to be free and happy, and to owe their Freedom and
Happiness to their political Constitution. Yet allowing all this, what Defence does this
make for artificial Society in general, that these inconsiderable Spots of the Globe
have for some short Space of Time stood as Exceptions to a Charge so general?But
when we call these Governments free, or concede that their Citizens were happier
than those which lived under different Forms, it is merely ex abundanti. Forwe should
be greatly mistaken, if we really thought that the Majority of the People which filled
these Cities, enjoyed even that nominal political Freedom of which I have spoken so
much already. In reality, they had no Part of it. In Athens therewere usually from ten
to thirty thousand Freemen: This was the utmost. But the Slaves usually amounted to
four hundred thousand, and sometimes to a great many more. The Freemen of Sparta
and Rome were not more numerous inproportion to those whom they held in a
Slavery, even more terrible than the Athenian. Thereforestate the Matter fairly: The
free States never formed, though they were taken all together, the thousandth Part of
the habitable Globe; the Freemen in these States were never the twentieth Part of the
People, and the Time they subsisted is scarce any thing in that immense Ocean of
Duration in which Time and Slavery are so nearly commensurate. Therefore call these
free States, or popular Governments, or what you please; when we consider the
Majority of their Inhabitants, and regard the Natural Rights of Mankind, they must
appear in Reality and Truth, no better than pitiful and oppressive Oligarchies.

After so fair an Examen, wherein nothing has been exaggerated; no Fact

producedwhich cannot be proved, and none which has been produced in any wise
forced or strained, while thousands have, for Brevity, been omitted; after so candid a
Discussion in all respects; what Slave so passive, what Bigot so blind, what
Enthusiast so headlong, what Politician so hardened, as to stand up in Defence of a
System calculated for a Curse to Mankind? a Curse under which they smart and groan
to this Hour, without thoroughly knowing the Nature of the Disease, and wanting
Understanding or Courage to apply the Remedy.

I need not excuse myself to your Lordship, nor, I think, to any honest Man, for the
Zeal I have shewn in this Cause; for it is an honest Zeal, and in a good Cause. I have
defended Natural Religion against a Confederacy of Atheists and Divines. I now
plead for Natural Society against Politicians, and for Natural Reason against all three.
When the World is in a fitter Temper than it is at present to hear Truth, or when I shall
be more indifferent about its Temper;my Thoughts may become more publick. In the
mean time, let them repose in my own Bosom, and in the Bosoms of such Men as are
fit to be initiated in the sober Mysteries of Truth and Reason. My Antagonists have
already done as much as I could desire. Parties in Religion and Politics make
sufficient Discoveries concerning each other, to give a sober Man a proper Caution
against them all. The Monarchic, Aristocratical, and Popular Partizans have been
jointly laying their Axes to the Root of all Government, and have in their Turns
proved each other absurd and inconvenient. In vain you tell me that Artificial
Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing
itself is the Abuse!Observe, my Lord, I pray you, that grand Error upon which all
artificial legislative Power is founded. It was observed, that Men had ungovernable

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 24

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

Passions, which made it necessary to guard against the Violence they might offer to
each other. They appointed Governors over them for this Reason; but a worse and
more perplexing Difficulty arises, how to be defended against the Governors? Quis
custodiet ipsos custodes? Invain they change from a single Person to a few. These few
have the Passions of the one, and they unite to strengthen themselves, and to secure
the Gratification of their lawless Passions at the Expence of the general Good. In vain
do we fly to the Many. The Case is worse; their Passions are less under the
Government of Reason, they are augmented by the Contagion, and defended against
all Attacks by their Multitude.

I have purposely avoided the mention of the mixed Form of Government, for Reasons
that will be very obvious to your Lordship. But my Caution can avail me but little.
You will not fail to urge it against me in favour of Political Society. You will not fail
to shew how the Errors of the several simple Modes are corrected by a Mixture of all
of them, and a proper Ballance of the several Powers in such a State. I confess, my
Lord, that this has been long a darling Mistake of my own; and that of all the
Sacrifices I have made to Truth, this has been by far the greatest. When I confess that
I think this Notion a Mistake, I know to whom I am speaking, for I am satisfied that
Reasons are like Liquors, and there are some of such a Nature as none but strong
Heads can bear. There are few with whom I can communicate so freely as with Pope.
But Pope cannotbear every Truth. He has a Timidity which hinders the full Exertion
of his Faculties, almost as effectually as Bigotry cramps those of the general Herd of
Mankind. But whoever is a genuine Follower of Truth, keeps his Eye steady upon his
Guide, indifferent whither he is led, provided that she is the Leader. And, my Lord, if
it be properly considered, it were infinitely better to remain possessed by the whole
Legion of vulgar Mistakes, than to reject some, and at the same time to retain a
Fondness for others altogether as absurd and irrational. The first has at least a
Consistency, that makes a Man, however erroneously, uniform at least; but the latter
way of proceeding is such an inconsistent Chimæra and Jumble of Philosophy and
vulgar Prejudice, that hardly any thing more ridiculous can be conceived. Let us
therefore freely, and without Fear or Prejudice, examine this last Contrivance of
Policy. And without considering how near the Quick our Instruments may come, let
us search it to the Bottom.

First then, all Men are agreed, that this Junction of Regal, Aristocratic, and Popular
Power, must form a very complex, nice, and intricate Machine, which being
composed of such a Variety of Parts, with such opposite Tendencies and Movements,
it must be liable on every Accident to be disordered. To speak without Metaphor, such
a Government must be liable to frequent Cabals, Tumults, and Revolutions, from its
very Constitution. These are undoubtedly as ill Effects, as can happen in a Society; for
in such a Case, the Closeness acquired by Community, instead of serving for mutual
Defence, serves only to increase the Danger. Such a System is like a City, where
Trades that require constant Fires are much exercised, where the Houses are built of
combustible Materials, and where they stand extremely close.

In the second Place, the several constituent Parts having their distinct Rights, and
these many of them so necessary to be determined with Exactness, are yet so
indeterminate in their Nature, that it becomes a new and constant Source of Debate

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 25

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

and Confusion. Hence it is, that whilst the Business of Government should be
carrying on, the Question is, who has a Right to exercise this or that Function of it, or
what Men have Power to keep their Offices in any Function. Whilst this Contest
continues, and whilst the Ballance in any sort continues, it has never any Remission;
all manner of Abuses and Villanies in Officers remain unpunished, the greatest Frauds
and Robberies in the publick Revenues are committed in Defiance of Justice; and
Abuses grow, by Time and Impunity, into Customs; until they prescribe against the
Laws, and grow too inveterate often to admit a Cure, unless such as may be as bad as
the Disease.

Thirdly, the several Parts of this Species of Government, though united, preserve the
Spirit which each Form has separately. Kings are ambitious; the Nobility haughty;
and the Populace tumultuous and ungovernable. Each Party, however in appearance
peaceable, carries on a Design upon the others; and it is owing to this, that in all
Questions, whether concerning foreign or domestick Affairs, the Whole generally
turns more upon some Party-Matter than upon the Nature of the Thing itself; whether
such a Step will diminish or augment the Power of the Crown, or how far the
Privileges of the Subject are like to be extended or restricted by it. And these
Questions are constantly resolved, without any Consideration of the Merits of the
Cause, merely as the Parties who uphold these jarring Interests may chance to prevail;
and as they prevail, the Ballance is overset, now upon one side, now upon the other.
The Government is one Day, arbitrary Power in a single Person; another, a juggling
Confederacy of a few to cheat the Prince and enslave the People; and the third, a
frantick and unmanageable Democracy. The great Instrument of all these Changes,
and what infuses a peculiar Venom into all of them, is Party. It is of no Consequence
what the Principles of any Party, or what their Pretensions are, the Spirit which
actuates all Parties is the same;the Spirit of Ambition, of Self-Interest, of Oppression,
and Treachery. This Spirit entirely reverses all the Principles which a benevolent
Nature has erected within us; all Honesty, all equal Justice, and even the Ties of
natural Society, the natural Affections. In a word, my Lord, we have all seen, and if
anyoutward Considerations were worthy the lasting Concern of a wise Man, we
havesome of us felt, such Oppression from Party Government as no other Tyranny can
parallel. We behold daily the most important Rights, Rights upon which all the others
depend; we behold these Rights determined in the last Resort, without the least
Attention even to the Appearance or

Colour of Justice; we behold this without Emotion, because we have grown up in the
constant View of such Practices; and we are not surprised to hear a Man requested to
be a Knave and a Traitor, with as much Indifference as if the most ordinary Favour
were asked; and we hear this Request refused, not because it is a most unjust and
unreasonable Desire, but that this Worthy has already engaged his Injustice to
another. These and many more Points I am far from spreading to their full Extent.
You are sensible that I do not put forth half my Strength; and you cannot be at a Loss
for the Reason. A Man is allowed sufficient Freedom of Thought, provided he knows
how to chuse his Subject properly. You may criticise freely upon the Chinese
Constitution, andobserve with as much Severity as you please upon the Absurd
Tricks, or destructive Bigotry of the Bonzees. But the Scene is changed as you come
homeward, and Atheism or Treason may be the Names given in Britain, to what

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 26

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

wouldbe Reason and Truth if asserted of China. I submit to the Condition, andthough
I have a notorious Advantage before me, I wave the Pursuit. For else, my Lord, it is
very obvious what a Picture might be drawn of the Excesses of Party even in our own
Nation. I could shew, that the same Faction has in one Reign promoted popular
Seditions, and in the next been a Patron of Tyranny; I could shew, that they have all
of them betrayed the publick Safety at all Times, and have very frequently with equal
Perfidy made a Market of their own Cause, and their own Associates. I could shew
how vehemently they have contended for Names, and how silently they passed over
Things of the last importance. And I could demonstrate, that they have had the
Opportunity of doing all this Mischief, nay, that they themselves had their Origin and
Growth from the Complex Form of Government which we are wisely taught to look
upon as so great a Blessing. Revolve, my Lord, our History from the Conquest. We
scarce ever had a Prince, who by Fraud, or Violence, had not made some
Infringement on the Constitution. We scarce ever had a Parliament which knew, when
it attempted to set Limits to the Royal Authority, how to set Limits to its own. Evils
we have had continually calling for Reformation, and Reformations more grievous
than any Evils. Our boasted Liberty sometimes trodden down, sometimes giddily set
up, ever precariously fluctuating and unsettled;it has been only kept alive by the
Blasts of continual Feuds, Wars, and Conspiracies. In no Country in Europe has the
Scaffold so often blushed with the Blood of its Nobility. Confiscations, Banishments,
Attainders, and Executions, make a large Part of the History of such of our Families
as are not utterly extinguished by them. Formerly indeed Things had a more ferocious
Appearance than they have at this Day. In these early and unrefined Ages, the jarring
Parts of a certain chaotic Constitution supported their several Pretensions by the
Sword. Experience and Policy have since taught other Methods.

Res vero nunc agitur tenui pulmone rubetæ. Buthow far Corruption, Venality, the
Contempt of Honour, the Oblivion of all Duty to our Country, and the most
abandoned publick Prostitution, are preferable to the more glaring and violent Effects
of Faction, I will not presume to determine. Sure I am that they are very great Evils.

I have done with the Forms of Government. During the Course of my Enquiry you
may have observed a very material Difference between my Manner of Reasoning and
that which is in Use amongst the Abetors of artificial Society. They form their Plans
upon what seems most eligible to their Imaginations, for the ordering of Mankind.
Idiscover the Mistakes in those Plans, from the real known Consequences whichhave
resulted from them. They have inlisted Reason to fight against itself, andemploy its
whole Force to prove that it is an insufficient Guide to them in the Conduct of their
Lives. But unhappily for us, in proportion as we have deviatedfrom the plain Rule of
our Nature, and turned our Reason against itself, in that Proportion have we increased
the Follies and Miseries of Mankind. The more deeply we penetrate into the Labyrinth
of Art, the further we find ourselves from those Ends for which we entered it. Thishas
happened in almost every Species of Artificial Society, and in all Times. We found, or
we thought we found, an Inconvenience in having every Man the Judge of his own
Cause. Therefore Judges were set up, at first with discretionary Powers. But it was
soon found a miserable Slavery to have our Lives and Properties precarious, and
hanging upon the arbitrary Determination of any one Man, or Set of Men. We flew to
Laws as a Remedy for this Evil. By these we persuaded ourselves we might know

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 27

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

with some Certainty upon what Ground we stood. But lo! Differences arose upon the
Sense and Interpretation of these Laws. Thus we were brought back to our old
Incertitude. New Laws were made to expound the old; and new Difficulties arose
upon the new Laws; as Words multiplied, Opportunities of cavilling upon them
multiplied also. Then Recourse was had to Notes, Comments, Glosses, Reports,
Responsa Prudentum, learned Readings: Eagle stood against Eagle: Authority was set
up against Authority. Some were allured by the modern, others reverenced the
ancient. The new were more enlightened, the old were more venerable. Some adopted
the Comment, others stuck to the Text. The Confusion increased, the Mist thickened,
until it could be discovered no longer what was allowed or forbidden, what Things
were in Property, and what common. In this Uncertainty, (uncertain even to the
Professors, an Ægyptian Darknessto the rest of Mankind) the contending Parties felt
themselves more effectually ruined by the Delay than they could have been by the
Injustice of any Decision. Our Inheritances are become a Prize for Disputation; and
Disputes and Litigations are become an Inheritance.

The Professors of Artificial Law have always walked hand in hand with the
Professors of Artificial Theology. As their End, in confounding the Reason of Man,
and abridging his natural Freedom, is exactly the same, they have adjusted the Means
to that End in a Way entirely similar. The Divine thunders out his Anathemas
withmore Noise and Terror against the Breach of one of his positive Institutions, or
the Neglect of some of his trivial Forms, than against the Neglect or Breach of those
Duties and Commandments of natural Religion, which by these Forms and
Institutions he pretends to enforce. The Lawyer has his Forms, and his positive
Institutions too, and he adheres to them with a Veneration altogether as religious. The
worst Cause cannot be so prejudicial to the Litigant, as his Advocate's or Attorney's
Ignorance or Neglect of these Forms. A Law-suit is like an ill-managed Dispute, in
which the first Object is soon out of Sight, and the Parties end upon a Matter wholly
foreign to that on which they began. In a Law-suit the Question is, Who has a Right to
a certain House or Farm? And this Question is daily determined, not upon the
Evidences of the Right, but upon the Observance or Neglect of some Forms of Words
in use with the Gentlemen of the Robe, about which there is even amongst themselves
such a Disagreement, that the most experienced Veterans in the Profession can never
be positively assured that they are not mistaken.

Let us expostulate with these learned Sages, these Priests of the sacred Temple of
Justice. Are we Judges of our own Property? By no means. You then, who are
initiated into the Mysteries of the blindfold Goddess, inform me whether I have a
Right to eat the Bread I have earned by the Hazard of my Life, or the Sweat of my
Brow? The grave Doctor answers me in the Affirmative. The reverend Serjeant
replies in the Negative; the learned Barrister reasons upon one side and upon the
other, and concludes nothing. What shall I do? An Antagonist starts up and presses
me hard. I enter the Field, and retain these three Persons to defend my Cause. My
Cause, which two Farmers from the Plough could have decided in half an Hour, takes
the Court twenty Years. I am however at the end of my Labour, and have in Reward
for all my Toil and Vexation, a Judgment in my Favour. But hold–a sagacious
Commander, in the Adversary's Army has found a Flaw in the Proceeding. My
Triumph is turned into Mourning. I have used or, insteadof and, or some Mistake,

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 28

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

small in Appearance, but dreadful in its Consequences, and have the whole of my
Success quashed in a Writ of Error. I remove my Suit;I shift from Court to Court; I fly
from Equity to Law, and from Law to Equity;equal Uncertainty attends me every
where: And a Mistake in which I had no Share, decides at once upon my Liberty and
Property, sending me from the Court to a Prison, and adjudging my Family to
Beggary and Famine. I am innocent, Gentlemen, of the Darkness and Uncertainty of
your Science. I never darkened it with absurd and contradictory Notions, nor
confounded it with Chicane and Sophistry. You have excluded me from any Share in
the Conduct of my own Cause; the Science was too deep for me; I acknowledged it;
but it was too deep even for yourselves:You have made the way so intricate, that you
are yourselves lost in it: You err, and you punish me for your Errors.

The Delay of the Law is, your Lordship will tell me, a trite Topic, and which of its
Abuses have not been too severely felt not to be often complained of?A Man's
Property is to serve for the Purposes of his Support; and therefore to delay a
Determination concerning that, is the worst Injustice, because it cuts off the very End
and Purpose for which I applied to the Judicature for Relief. Quite contrary in Case of
a Man's Life, there the Determination can hardly be too much protracted. Mistakes in
this Case are as often fallen into as in any other, and if the Judgment is sudden, the
Mistakes are the most irretrievable of all others. Of this the Gentlemen of the Robe
are themselves sensible, and they have brought it into a Maxim. De morte hominis
nulla est cunctatio longa. Butwhat could have induced them to reverse the Rules, and
to contradict that Reason which dictated them, I am utterly unable to guess. A Point
concerning Property, which ought, for the Reasons I just mentioned, to be most
speedily decided, frequently exercises the Wit of Successions of Lawyers, for many
Generations. Multa virum volvens durando sæcula vincit. But the Question
concerning a Man's Life, that great Question in which no Delay ought to be counted
tedious, is commonly determined in twenty-four Hours at the utmost. It is not to be
wondered at, that Injustice and Absurdity should be inseparable Companions.

Ask of Politicians the End for which Laws were originally designed; and they will
answer, that the Laws were designed as a Protection for the Poor and Weak against
the Oppression of the Rich and Powerful. But surely no Pretence can be so ridiculous;
a Man might as well tell me he has taken off my Load, because he has changed the
Burthen. If the poor Man is not able to support his Suit, according to the vexatious
and expensive manner established in civilized Countries, has not the Rich as great an
Advantage over him as the Strong has over the Weak in a State of Nature? But we
will not place the State of Nature, which is the Reign of God, in competition with
Political Society, which is the absurd Usurpation of Man. In a State of Nature, it is
true, that a Man of superior Force may beat or rob me; but then it is true, that I am at
full Liberty to defend myself, or make Reprisal by Surprize or by Cunning, or by any
other way in which I may be superior to him. But in Political Society, a rich Man may
rob me in another way. I cannot defend myself;for Money is the only Weapon with
which we are allowed to fight. And if I attempt to avenge myself, the whole Force of
that Society is ready to complete my Ruin.

A good Parson once said, that where Mystery begins, Religion ends. Cannot I say, as
truly at least, of human Laws, that where Mystery begins, Justice ends? It is hard to

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 29

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

say, whether the Doctors of Law or Divinity have made the greater Advances in the
lucrative Business of Mystery. The Lawyers, as well as the Theologians, have erected
another Reason besides Natural Reason; and the Result has been, another Justice
besides Natural Justice. They have so bewildered the World and themselves in
unmeaning Forms and Ceremonies, and so perplexed the plainest Matters with
metaphysical Jargon, that it carries the highest Danger to a Man out of that Profession,
to make the least Step without their Advice and Assistance. Thus by confining to
themselves the knowledge of the Foundation of all Men's Lives and Properties, they
have reduced all Mankind into the most abject and servile Dependence. We are
Tenants at the Will of these Gentlemen for every thing; and a metaphysical Quibble is
to decide whether the greatest Villain breathing shall meet his Desserts, or escape
with Impunity, or whether the best Man in the Society shall not be reduced to the
lowest and most despicable Condition it affords. In a word, my Lord, the Injustice,
Delay, Puerility, false Refinement, and affected Mystery of the Law are such, that
many who live under it come to admire and envy the Expedition, Simplicity, and
Equality of arbitrary Judgments. I need insist the less on this Article to your Lordship,
as you have frequently lamented the Miseries derived to us from Artificial Law, and
your Candor is the more to be admired and applauded in this, as your Lordship's noble
House has derived its Wealth and its Honours from that Profession.

Before we finish our Examination of Artificial Society, I shall lead your Lordship into
a closer Consideration of the Relations which it gives Birth to, and the Benefits, if
such they are, which result from these Relations. The most obvious Division of
Society is into Rich and Poor; and it is no less obvious, that the Number of the former
bear a great Disproportion to those of the latter. The whole Business of the Poor is to
administer to the Idleness, Folly, and Luxury of the Rich; and that of the Rich, in
return, is to find the best Methods of confirming the Slavery and increasing the
Burthens of the Poor. In a State of Nature, it is an invariable Law, that a Man's
Acquisitions are in proportion to his Labours. In a State of Artificial Society, it is a
Law as constant and as invariable, that those who labour most, enjoy the fewest
Things; and that those who labour not at all, have the greatest Number of Enjoyments.
A Constitution of Things this, strange and ridiculous beyond Expression. We scarce
believe a thing when we are told it, which we actually see before our Eyes every Day
without being in the least surprized. I suppose that there are in Great-Britain
upwardsof an hundred thousand People employed in Lead, Tin, Iron, Copper, and
Coal Mines;these unhappy Wretches scarce ever see the Light of the Sun; they are
buried in the Bowels of the Earth; there they work at a severe and dismal Task,
without the least Prospect of being delivered from it; they subsist upon the coarsest
and worst sort of Fare; they have their Health miserably impaired, and their Lives cut
short, by being perpetually confined in the close Vapour of these malignant Minerals.
An hundred thousand more at least are tortured without Remission by the suffocating
Smoak, intense Fires, and constant Drudgery necessary in refining and managing the
Products of those Mines. If any Man informed us that two hundred thousand innocent
Persons were condemned to so intolerable Slavery, how should we pity the unhappy
Sufferers, and how great would be our just Indignation against those who inflicted so
cruel and ignominious a Punishment? This is an Instance, I could not wish a stronger,
of the numberless Things which we pass by in their common Dress, yet which shock
us when they are nakedly represented. But this Number, considerable as it is, and the

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 30

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

Slavery, with all its Baseness and Horror, which we have at home, is nothing to what
the rest of the World affords of the same Nature. Millions daily bathed in the
poisonous Damps and destructive Effluvia of Lead, Silver, Copper, and Arsenic. To
say nothing of those other Employments, those Stations of Wretchedness and
Contempt in which Civil Society has placed the numerous Enfans perdus ofher Army.
Would any rational Man submit to one of the most tolerable of these Drudgeries, for
all the artificial Enjoyments which Policy has made to result from them? By no
means. And yet need I suggest to your Lordship, that those who find the Means, and
those who arrive at the End, are not at all the same Persons. On considering the
strange and unaccountable Fancies and Contrivances of artificial Reason, I have
somewhere called this Earth the Bedlam of our System. Looking now upon the
Effects of some of those Fancies, may we not with equal Reason call it likewise the
Newgate, and the Bridewell of the Universe. Indeed the Blindness of one Part of
Mankind co-operating with the Frenzy and Villainy of the other, has been the real
Builder of this respectable Fabric of political Society: And as the Blindness of
Mankind has caused their Slavery, in Return their State of Slavery is made a Pretence
for continuing them in a State of Blindness; for the Politician will tell you gravely,
that their Life of Servitude disqualifies the greater Part of the Race of Man for a
Search of Truth, and supplies them with no other than mean and insufficient Ideas.
This is but too true; and this is one of the Reasons for which I blame such Institutions.

In a Misery of this Sort, admitting some few Lenities, and those too but a few, nine
Parts in ten of the whole Race of Mankind drudge through Life. It may be urged
perhaps, in palliation of this, that, at least, the rich Few find a considerable and real
Benefit from the Wretchedness of the Many. But is this so in fact? Let us examine the
Point with a little more Attention. For this Purpose the Rich in all Societies may be
thrown into two Classes. The first is of those who are Powerful as well as Rich, and
conduct the Operations of the vast political Machine. The other is of those who
employ their Riches wholly in the Acquisition of Pleasure. As to the first Sort, their
continual Care, and Anxiety, their toilsome Days, and sleepless Nights, are next to
proverbial. These Circumstances are sufficient almost to level their Condition to that
of the unhappy Majority; but there are other Circumstances which place them in a far
lower Condition. Not only their Understandings labour continually, which is the
severest Labour, but their Hearts are torn by the worst, most troublesome, and
insatiable of all Passions, by Avarice, by Ambition, by Fear and Jealousy. No part of
the Mind has Rest. Power gradually extirpates from the Mind every humane and
gentle Virtue. Pity, Benevolence, Friendship are Things almost unknown in high
Stations. Varæ amicitiæ rarissime inveniuntur in iis qui in honoribus reque publica
versantur, says Cicero. Andindeed, Courts are the Schools where Cruelty, Pride,
Dissimulation, and Treachery are studied and taught in the most vicious Perfection.
This is a Point so clear and acknowledged, that if it did not make a necessary Part of
my Subject, I should pass it by entirely. And this has hindered me from drawing at
full length, and in the most striking Colours, this shocking Picture of the Degeneracy
and Wretchedness of human Nature, in that Part which is vulgarly thought its happiest
and most amiable State. You know from what Originals I could copy such Pictures.
Happy are they who know enough of them to know the little Value of the Possessors
of such Things, and of all that they possess; and happy they who have been snatched
from that Post of Danger which they occupy, with the Remains of their Virtue; Loss

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 31

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

of Honours, Wealth, Titles, and even the Loss of one's Country, is nothing in Balance
withso great an Advantage.

Let us now view the other Species of the Rich, those who devote their Time and
Fortunes to Idleness and Pleasure. How much happier are they? The Pleasures which
are agreeable to Nature are within the reach of all, and therefore can form no
Distinction in favour of the Rich. The Pleasures which Art forces up are seldom
sincere, and never satisfying. What is worse, this constant Application to Pleasure
takes away from the Enjoyment, or rather turns it into the Nature of a very
burthensome and laborious Business. It has Consequences much more fatal. It
produces a weak valetudinary State of Body, attended by all those horrid Disorders,
and yet more horrid Methods of Cure, which are the Result of Luxury on one hand,
and the weak and ridiculous Efforts of human Art on the other. The Pleasures of such
Men are scarcely felt as Pleasures; at the same time that they bring on Pains and
Diseases, which are felt but too severely. The Mind has its Share of the Misfortune; it
grows lazy and enervate, unwilling and unable to search for Truth, and utterly
uncapable of knowing, much less of relishing real Happiness. The Poor by their
excessive Labour, and the Rich by their enormous Luxury, are set upon a Level, and
rendered equally ignorant of any Knowledge which might conduce to their Happiness.
A dismal View of the Interior of all Civil Society. The lower Part broken and ground
down by the most cruel Oppression; and the Rich by their artificial Method of Life
bringing worse Evils on themselves, than their Tyranny could possibly inflict on those
below them. Very different is the Prospect of the Natural State. Here there are no
Wants which Nature gives, and in this State Men can be sensible of no other Wants,
which are not to be supplied by a very moderate Degree of Labour; therefore there is
no Slavery. Neither is there any Luxury, because no single Man can supply the
Materials of it. Life is simple, and therefore it is happy.

I am conscious, my Lord, that your Politician will urge in his Defence, that this
unequal State is highly useful. That without dooming some Part of Mankind to
extraordinary Toil, the Arts which cultivate Life could not be exercised. But I demand
of this Politician, how such Arts came to be necessary? He answers, that Civil Society
could not well exist without them. So that these Arts are necessary to Civil Society,
and Civil Society necessary again to these Arts. Thus running in a Circle, without
Modesty, and without End, and making one Error and Extravagance an Excuse for the
other. My Sentiments about these Arts and their Cause, I have often discoursed with
my Friends at large. Pope has expressed them in good Verse, where he talks with so
much Force of Reason and Elegance of Language in Praise of the State of Nature:
Then was not Pride, nor Arts that Pride to aid, Man walk’d with Beast, Joint-tenant of
the Shade.

On the whole, my Lord, if Political Society, in whatever Form, has still made the
Many the Property of the Few; if it has introduced Labours unnecessary, Vices and
Diseases unknown, and Pleasures incompatible with Nature; if in all Countries it
abridges the Lives of Millions, and renders those of Millions more utterly abject and
miserable, shall we still worship so destructive an Idol, and daily sacrifice to it our
Health, our Liberty, and our Peace? Or shall we pass by this monstrous Heap of
absurd Notions, and abominable Practices, thinking we have sufficiently discharged

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 32

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

our Duty in exposing the trifling Cheats, and ridiculous Juggles of a few mad,
designing, or ambitious Priests? Alas! my Lord, we labour under a mortal
Consumption, whilst we are so anxious about the Cure of a sore Finger. For has not
this Leviathan of Civil Power overflowed the Earth with a Deluge of Blood, as if he
were made to disport and play therein?We have shewn, that Political Society, on a
moderate Calculation, has been the Means of murdering several times the Number of
Inhabitants now upon the Earth, during its short Existence, not upwards of four
thousand Years in any Accounts to be depended on. But we have said nothing of the
other, and perhaps as bad Consequence of these Wars, which have spilled such Seas
of Blood, and reduced so many Millions to a merciless Slavery. But these are only the
Ceremonies performed in the Porch of the political Temple. Much more horrid ones
are seen as you enter it. The several Species of Government vie with each other in the
Absurdity of their Constitutions, and the Oppression which they make their Subjects
endure. Take them under what Form you please, they are in effect but a Despotism,
and they fall, both in Effect and Appearance too, after a very short Period, into that
cruel and detestable Species of Tyranny; which I rather call it, because we have been
educated under another Form, than that this is of worse Consequences to Mankind.
For the free Governments, for the Point of their Space, and the Moment of their
Duration, have felt more Confusion, and committed more flagrant Acts of Tyranny,
than the most perfect despotic Governments which we have ever known. Turn your
Eye next to the Labyrinth of the Law, and the Iniquity conceived in its intricate
Recesses. Consider the Ravages committed in the Bowels of all Commonwealths by
Ambition, by Avarice, Envy, Fraud, open Injustice, and pretended Friendship; Vices
which could draw little Support from a State of Nature, but which blossom and
flourish in the Rankness of political Society. Revolve our whole Discourse; add to it
all those Reflections which your own good Understanding shall suggest, and make a
strenuous Effort beyond the Reach of vulgar Philosophy, to confess that the Cause of
Artificial Society is more defenceless even than that of Artificial Religion; that it is as
derogatory from the Honour of the Creator, as subversive of human Reason, and
productive of infinitely more Mischief to the human Race.

If pretended Revelations have caused Wars where they were opposed, and Slavery
where they were received, the pretended wise Inventions of Politicians have done the
same. But the Slavery has been much heavier, the Wars far more bloody, and both
more universal by many Degrees. Shew me any Mischief produced by the Madness or
Wickedness of Theologians, and I will shew you an hundred, resulting from the
Ambition and Villainy of Conquerors and Statesmen. Shew me an Absurdity in
Religion, I will undertake to shew you an hundred for one in political Laws and
Institutions. If you say, that Natural Religion is a sufficient Guide without the foreign
Aid of Revelation, on what Principle should Political Laws become necessary? Is not
the same Reason available in Theology and in Politics? If the Laws of Nature are the
Laws of God, is it consistent with the Divine Wisdom to prescribe Rules to us, and
leave the Enforcement of them to the Folly of human Institutions? Willyou follow
Truth but to a certain Point?

We are indebted for all our Miseries to our Distrust of that Guide, which Providence
thought sufficient for our Condition, our own natural Reason, which rejecting both in
human and divine Things, we have given our Necks to the Yoke of political and

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 33

Online Library of Liberty: A Vindication of Natural Society

theological Slavery. We have renounced the Prerogative of Man, and it is no Wonder

that we should be treated like Beasts. But our Misery is much greater than theirs, as
the Crime we commit in rejecting the lawful Dominion of our Reason is greater than
any which they can commit. If after all, you should confess all these Things, yet plead
the Necessity of political Institutions, weak and wicked as they are, I can argue with
equal, perhaps superior Force concerning the Necessity of artificial Religion; and
every Step you advance in your Argument, you add a Strength to mine. So that if we
are resolved to submit our Reason and our Liberty to civil Usurpation, we have
nothing to do but to conform as quietly as we can to the vulgar Notions which are
connected with this, and take up the Theology of the Vulgar as well as their Politics.
But if we think this Necessity rather imaginary than real, we should renounce their
Dreams of Society, together with their Visions of Religion, and vindicate ourselves
into perfect Liberty.

You are, my Lord, but just entering into the World; I am going out of it. I have played
long enough to be heartily tired of the Drama. Whether I have acted my Part in it well
or ill, Posterity will judge with more Candor than I, or than the present Age, with our
present Passions, can possibly pretend to. For my part, I quit it without a Sigh, and
submit to the Sovereign Order without murmuring. The nearer we approach to the
Goal of Life, the better we begin to understand the true Value of our Existence, and
the real Weight of our Opinions. We set out much in love with both; but we leave
much behind us as we advance. We first throw away the Tales along with the Rattles
of our Nurses; those of the Priest keep their Hold a little longer; those of our
Governors the longest of all. But the Passions which prop these Opinions are
withdrawn one after another; and the cool Light of Reason at the Setting of our Life,
shews us what a false Splendor played upon these Objects during our more sanguine
Seasons. Happy, my Lord, if instructed by my Experience, and even by my Errors,
you come early to make such an Estimate of Things, as may give Freedom and Ease
to your Life. I am happy that such an Estimate promises me Comfort at my Death.


[[1]]Had his Lordship lived to our Days, to have seen the noble Relief given by this
Nation to the distressed Portuguese, he had perhaps owned this Part of his Argument
a little weakened, but we do not think ourselves intitled to alter his Lordship's Words,
but that we are bound to follow him exactly.

[[2]]Sciant quibus moris illicita mirari, posse etiam sub malis principibus magnos
viros, etc. See 42 to the End of it.

PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 34

Related Interests